Water Challenges

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William Shatner Lends his Celebrity Horsepower for Therapeutic Riding Partnership with JNF; Press Conference in Jerusalem

Contact in NY: Jodi Bodner • JNF Director of Communications • 212-879-9305 ext. 221 • jbodner@jnf.org / • Contact: Susan Horwitz • JNF Israel Representative • 972-54-783-6391 • haari@netvision.net.il

May 15, 2006 -- New York, NY -- William Shatner, the former Starship commander and current attorney (in his TV life), is taking on a new role in his real life: the Hollywood star has been named the celebrity spokesperson for the William Shatner/Jewish National Fund Therapeutic Riding Consortium Endowment for Israel.

A press conference will be held on Monday, May 29 at 8 a.m., at The King David Hotel in Jerusalem. He will discuss this new project and why he has chosen to take it on.

Directors of some of Israel’s therapeutic riding centers will be present to talk about the consortium's importance, and riders will be on hand to give testament to the need.

William and his wife, Elizabeth, will be in Israel the last week in May for only the second time in their lives to assess the needs of Israel’s therapeutic riding centers as he takes on this cause. They will spend the week visiting different centers across the country, meeting with center directors and heads of State, and learning about JNF's mission to care for the land and people of Israel.

Jewish and of Polish descent, in his 70s, with a still-hot Hollywood career, Shatner shows no signs of slowing down and is turning his attention, energy, and efforts to reconnecting with his Jewish roots and forging a connection to Israel. To accomplish both he has turned to Jewish National Fund and its work with therapeutic riding centers across Israel.
 
Shatner is the third celebrity to take on a Jewish National Fund (JNF) cause. Actor Hal Linden is the national spokesperson for JNF, and world-renowned violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman speaks on behalf of JNF's Inclusive Parks Project.
 
“I want to be the celebrity spokesperson for this important project,” said Shatner. “Back in the 1980s I saw a riding exhibition put on by an organization called Ahead with Horses. In it, were children so severely handicapped some could not even hold their heads up, yet there they were going through intricate exercises on horseback. From that day on, I was smitten by this cause. You can’t watch these kids without knowing you have to help somehow.
 
“Fifteen years ago I spearheaded the Hollywood Charity Horse Show [HCHS]; now I want to go and make a difference internationally. I am particularly interested in what JNF is doing with this project as I see it as a way to foster peace between the nations. What better way to create a dialogue than by helping handicapped children from different countries feel good about themselves?”
 
Pr GrofitLong involved with a few of the therapeutic riding centers that exist in Israel, JNF of America together with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, wanted to do more than just fund one or two centers. The William Shatner/Jewish National Fund Therapeutic Riding Consortium Endowment for Israel will fund the nearly 30 therapeutic riding programs that exist throughout Israel. The goal is to raise $10 million to support these unique programs, and provide scholarships so that no one who would benefit from a therapeutic riding center is denied that opportunity because of the cost. Through the endowment, funds will be raised for all the riding centers in Israel and scholarships provided for children of all religious and ethnic backgrounds and from all walks of life. It is an ideal way to facilitate cooperation between Israelis of all backgrounds, Jordanians and Palestinians. The endowment will be overseen by a board of trustees who will evaluate expenditures and provide hands-on guidance for the programs.
 
The benefits of riding for those with disabilities have been recognized for over 3,000 years, since the time of Hippocrates. Therapeutic riding has been widely used since the early 1950s as a tool for improving the lives of individuals with physical disabilities.
 
Individuals with almost any cognitive, physical and/or emotional disability can benefit from therapeutic riding, driving, vaulting, competition or other purposeful, safe and supervised interaction with horses. Because horseback riding gently and rhythmically moves the rider's body in a manner similar to a human gait, riders with physical disabilities often show improvement in verbalization, flexibility, balance, muscle tone, strength, posture, coordination, motor development and emotional well being. For individuals with mental or emotional disabilities, the unique relationship formed with the horse can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem. The sense of independence and acceptance found through these activities with the horse benefits all.

The William Shatner/Jewish National Fund Therapeutic Riding Consortium Endowment for Israel dovetails with other vital work JNF is doing to help the disabled community in Israel. A recent survey in Israel found that more than 12 million people annually visit JNF parks. But while demand for access to the parks and historical sites has grown extensively, the infrastructure development required to make them accessible to all has been cut due to budgetary constraints. Additionally, it is estimated that as a result of terrorism and military conflicts, the number of Israelis with disabilities has grown by 50% over the last 10 years and will continue to rise by about 5% a year. About 10% of Israel’s population of seven million are people with special needs.
 
Jumpstarted with a sizeable contribution from the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation, one and a half years ago JNF embarked on a $25 million Inclusive Parks campaign. Working with an architect who specializes in the construction of inclusive areas, and with the support of myriad organizations in Israel, JNF is designing parks, picnic areas, playgrounds, leisure corners, nature trails, lookouts, and other recreational facilities in Israel that are inclusive to all.

Jewish National Fund, through its Blueprint Negev initiative, a $500 million campaign to develop the Negev Desert, is also making a major impact in the region by partnering with Aleh, an organization that provides children with disabilities throughout Israel with high-level medical and rehabilitative care to help them realize their full potential. Together, they are building Aleh Negev, a state-of-the-art communal rehabilitative village situated in Ofakim, to provide much-needed services and jobs to the area. Aleh Negev will be home to over 500 residential adults with disabilities and will serve some 12,000 children and young adults with disabilities each year on an outpatient basis.

"An ambassador for good causes can bring about good results," said Russell F. Robinson, JNF of America's Chief Executive Officer. "William Shatner is just the person to achieve those results for this consortium. We are proud and honored to launch this relationship with him on behalf of the people and the land of Israel."

 Top photo credit: WilliamShatner.com The photo is available as a high-res jpeg.
Bottom: Rider at Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center at Kibbutz Grofit in the Negev Desert near the Jordanian border.

 # # #

JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.

JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.

JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.

For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.

 

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Water Challenges

In Israel the most precious commodity is water and it is at risk. Find out how you can help.

 

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